In weekly poem-making sessions that I have been conducting remotely for the past 13 weeks of the pandemic, with participants from all over—my own New York City, Israel, Europe, Asia and all over North America—I have been surprised by how eager poets have been to not only write together be released from the obligation to write about the current crises. It is my contention that removing the obligation allows us to let the actual climate of the times work upon the imagination, rather than feel compelled to simply comment on it. I encourage poets to do this without apology, and rather than feel uneasy about their lack of relevance in the public square, to think of relevance in new ways. That both poetry and politics are conducted in words tempts us to confuse them and equate them—mostly to the detriment of poetry. But they do not do the same kind of work. At the moment, public life in the United States is taking a turn toward totalitarianism—and totalitarianism is not politics, but rather the absence of politics.
Poetry engages and activates the radical uncertainty that points toward alternative ways to conduct oneself in and think about the world and, in its invitation to gaze upon it with disinterest and empathy, prepares us for an active life in the public square. It necessarily does this without prescriptions and obligations. One must trust the imagination to engage itself in the crisis of the time, without being directed to do so. I try to write in such a way as to forget anything I might feel I have to say, and create conditions in which I might be surprised by language and the self that (in the words of the American philosopher John Dewey) “is not consciously known.” I’ve found that in our current time, having a community of writers with whom one can share this experience, where one can be “alone together” via remote technologies in the active but quiet commotion of making poems in a new kind of “public square”, has been one of the amazing unintended consequences of the pandemic.
About the presenter: Geoffrey Nutter is originally from California but has lived in New York for many years. He has published five books: A Summer Evening (winner of the Colorado Prize, 2001); Water’s Leaves & Other Poems (winner of the Verse Prize, 2005); Christopher Sunset (winner of the 2011 Sheila Motton Book Award); The Rose of January (Wave Books, 2013); and Cities at Dawn. Geoffrey studied poetry at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where he was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize, and has taught poetry classes at Princeton University, The New School, New York University, Columbia University School of the Arts, the 92nd Street Y in NYC, and the University of Iowa. Geoffrey runs the Wallson Glass Poetry Seminars in New York City.
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Topic: WICE Talks - Poetry and Artists in New York in the time of Corona
Time: Jun 16, 2020 06:00 PM Paris
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